By ANDREW SOULSBY
“It came like magic in a pint bottle; it was not ecstasy but it was comfort.”
Charles Dickens captured the essence of what many of us feel when we crack open a bottle of beer, light a joint or power up the Xbox, but when does stress relief turn into addiction?
According to Marshall Chanda, one of Conestoga College’s counsellors, addiction is described as an excessive use of substances, services and activities that interfere with a person’s daily routine.
However, for those who are addicted to a substance such as marijuana, it’s often ingrained into their daily routines, and their relationship to it is often minimized to simply being a way to relieve stress. In this case, how could a person become aware of a potential problem?
According to Chanda, the insight could come externally in the form of a close friend’s complaint about broken social engagements or a classmate noticing a drop in grades. When these sorts of complaints become frequent and can be directly linked to overuse of a substance or activity, it could indicate signs of addiction. Sometimes, though, this isn’t the case.
We surround ourselves with people who share common interests with us; in this case, if it’s smoking pot or raiding a faraway land in a virtual world, we do it with a group of friends. Therefore, the support a person needs to successfully quit an addictive activity is made far more difficult. In this situation, a person must take a step back and ask himself what his relationship to a certain drug or activity is and why.
For some, it may be explained by a predisposition to addiction, or as having an addictive personality.
“If someone has an addictive personality, when they’re faced with stress or challenges or strife in their life, it can certainly be a risk factor to developing addiction as a response to coping,” Chanda said. First and foremost, he said, a student should seek the help of counsellors who can advise on ways to positively cope with stress. For students, who often balance the pressure of doing well on assignments, tests and exams with girlfriends and boyfriends, or work to pay off car or student loans, finding ways to manage stress positively is indispensable. In fact, the counsellors at Conestoga have put together a relaxation CD that teaches breathing exercises, muscle relaxation and meditation techniques.
While Counselling Services will do everything they can for a person who feels as though they’ve lost control of their addiction, in extreme cases they refer students to St. Mary’s Hospital which offers its own in-depth approach.
According to the hospital’s website, www.smgh.ca, “professional counsellors help individuals review their lifestyle, identify changes they might like to make, and help them develop the necessary skills to make those changes.” St. Mary’s counselling services is free of charge.